For those of us who already paddleboard it’s easy to say… “Go on, give it a go, it’s easy!” But what’s it really like for a first time paddleboarder? SUP rookie and freelance journalist Nina Hoogstraate tells us about her experience of SUP for the first time…
The biggest surprise after my first experience on a SUP was that I walked back on to shore with not a drop of water anywhere above my knees!
When you think of water sports, you obviously think of water. But with this awesome, tranquil sport you’re on the water, not in it – at least not voluntarily. And that is one of the beauties of SUP boarding. I’d heard varying stories about the level of difficulty of SUP boarding – some said it was easy; others struggled with keeping their balance or found it boring. Strong core muscles, sturdy arm muscles and good balance were the three re-occurring themes/necessities when speaking to people about their experiences. I figured through practising yoga regularly I ticked all three boxes, and was too stoked to care about not enjoying myself, even if I did spend half my time in the water (which, by the way, I didn’t!).
On the morning of my first lesson, I looked up at the sky and saw it was scattered with a quite a few dark, ominous-looking clouds. Part of me was a little concerned about the lack of sun – I figured a wetsuit might have been a good idea. In fact, I thought a wetsuit could be useful if it’s too hot or too cold; either if – or when – you tumble over on your first try at standing up on the board or to avoid burning. As we carried our boards and paddles on to the beach, we were blessed with perfect conditions; the sea was flat as a pancake and the sun was slowly working its way through the clouds, giving off a warm glow on what was turning out to be a beautiful Cornish morning.
After a few minutes of kneeling on the board on the sea, I got the notion it might be easier than expected. After a few minutes of paddling about on my knees, I built up the courage to stand up. While at first it did feel a bit wobbly, I soon realised that it is a perfectly natural stance, and as long as I kept paddling, I felt pretty comfortable crossing the bay.
A big part of SUP boarding – and any activity where you need a lesson – is the teacher. Reuben, my super chilled, stoked instructor had a calming presence, and the way he explained and corrected your stance, the way you hold a paddle (I did get the hang of it in the end), etc. was in an unassuming, friendly manner, which definitely enhanced the experience. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than a high-strung teacher who is impatient and throws you off balance every time he, or she, speaks.
Half way through the session there was a bit of swell and the wind picked up a bit. This is when bending the knees came in, and we started practising turns. This was one of my weaker points. Turning the paddle in the opposite way to the direction you need to go in was a bit tricky at first, but I got the hang of it in the end.
The main impression I felt throughout the entire session was a huge sense of calmness in both my body and mind – you seem to stop thinking and just focus on your surroundings: the sea underneath you, the cliffs and beach surrounding you, the birds soaring overhead – it’s essentially the perfect way to start any day. I found it less physically and mentally exhausting than surfing, but left with the same emotional state you get when you step off a surfboard; complete serenity and slightly sore arms. I can’t wait until the next time!
Nina Hoogstraate is a young freelance journalist based in London. Stoked about anything culturally enlightening. To follow more of Nina story’s visit her blog here.
How did you feel the first time you stood on SUP? What was it that got you stoked about the sport? What would you say to someone thinking about giving it a go?